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Sitrep-Assam's CM misplaced criticism of army

Is the criticism by Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi of the army's alleged "slow pattern of deployment" to curb the recent ethnic violence in the state justified? One thing must be considered by politicians of all hues before levelling charges against the armed forces in respect of internal security operations.Mandeep Singh Bajwa writes

chandigarh Updated: Aug 21, 2012 12:57 IST

Is the criticism by Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi of the army's alleged "slow pattern of deployment" to curb the recent ethnic violence in the state justified? One thing must be considered by politicians of all hues before levelling charges against the armed forces in respect of internal security operations.

The armed forces are always loath to deploying troops in aid of civil power for maintenance of law and order without specific and definite orders. It's not as if they're unaware in some way of the ground situation.
The military intelligence's internal security groups with sub-units located all over the country keep a close watch on threats to internal security and political developments that might trigger such situations.
The army's terms of engagement mean that they will always wait for written requisitions/requests to deploy troops inside the country.
That is what being armed forces, which respect democratic norms and constitutional provisions, is all about. Politicians of all hues, when they indulge in cover-ups and passing the buck operations of their own, must remember this.

3 Jat lived up to its reputation
In war, flexibility, robustness as much mental as physical, determination to achieve objectives and daring opportunism are all-important. Such qualities were displayed in ample measure by Colonel Desmond Hayde and his men of the famous 3rd Battalion of the Jat Regiment at the Battle of Batapore on September 6, 1965, the opening day of the Indian offensive in the Amritsar sector. Recruited from Jats, the tough, indomitable peasant community from Haryana, Rajasthan and Western UP and the backbone of India's defence, the battalion raised in 1823 had a proud battle record.

The Indian plan was to advance to the Bambanwala-Ravi Bedian (BRB) Canal and use it as a reverse defence. The 54 Brigade of 15 (Panther) Division, of which 3 Jat was a part, planned to have one battalion advance along the GT Road to the BRB Canal. The brigade's second battalion was to move along the Amritsar-Lahore railway line and capture the road and railway bridges at Jallo.

The 3 Jat were to infiltrate enemy territory, move cross-country, eliminate the Brigade Advance Position at Gosal-Dial on the GT Road and establish a firm base there. The idea was to position a battalion on either side of the GT Road holding the line of the BRB with a third in depth.

The Jats launched their move at 4 am, quickly moved up to their objective (held by a company less two platoons of 11 FF, a reconnaissance and support unit) and made quick work of it after a sharp encounter. Meanwhile the battalion moving along the GT Road had got into a firefight at the Rangers post at Wagah, losing around a dozen men.

Their CO lost heart and refused to move further. The Brigade Commander, Brigadier MS Rikh, then requested Hayde to take on the other unit's task. Hayde, always ready for a challenge and having full confidence in his men, soon had 3 Jat on the move along with Charlie Squadron, Scinde Horse and its Sherman tanks, even though they were mauled badly by air strikes by the quick-to-react Pakistan Air Force. Closing up to the canal, they came upon the strong screen position bolstered by concrete pill-boxes at Dograi/Jallo Mor held by two companies of 3 Baluch.

The battalion was now enveloped in a downpour of enemy artillery fire with their air force strafing the Jats relentlessly. It was now that 3 Jat's high quality of company and platoon leadership asserted itself. Maneuvering to outflank the enemy and encircle them, the Jats closed in to engage the Pakistanis in assault mode. Penetrating the Dograi defences, the battalion reached the Canal-GT Road junction at 11:30 hours.

The bridge over the canal had been blown up, but the framework stood more or less intact, though badly mangled. To exploit his success, Hayde now probed forward with two companies which worked their way across and fanned out on both sides of the GT Road. The Pakistani reaction was massive; national honour was involved. No artillery or air support was available to our own troops nor was there any communication link to the higher formation headquarters.

The 3 Jat was fighting the battle quite unaided except for the straight-shooting Scinde Horse squadron which effectively tackled enemy armour and mobile reinforcements.

The gallant foray of the Jats was soon to end however. The higher formation commanders failed to provide basic support or even go forward to see for themselves. Under tremendous enemy pressure and mindful that the remnants of the bridge would soon disintegrate leaving them marooned on the far bank, Hayde was ordered to withdraw to their original position.

In this action, 3 Jat and in particular their CO showed guts, grit, valour and an ability to grasp opportunities. Sadly, Hayde and 3 Jat's bold actions were not adequately supported by higher formation commanders who remained blissfully unaware of their resounding success in capturing Dograi and in probing forward across the BRB Canal towards the ultimate prize, Lahore.

Going beyond the call of duty
The month of August brings back painful memories of killings and mayhem in the name of religion at the time of Partition. Many armed forces personnel, even without orders, risked their careers and even their lives trying to save endangered people of all communities.

One such Good Samaritan was Captain Shamsher Singh, from the Kler military family of Kakrala village in Samrala tehsil ,serving with 2 Indian Airborne Division Signals at Quetta. On August 16, he was informed about a large number of non-Muslims having taken shelter in a local gurdwara and needing to be evacuated to India.

Accordingly, a number of officers, along with the men under their command, moved the refugees to their unit lines in the cantonment in army vehicles and housed them in empty barracks. A Pathan officer commanding a transport company also got into the spirit of things and placed his unit's jeeps and light vehicles with their trailers at the disposal of the evacuation group.

The Commanding Officer (CO), Colonel Jones, from the British Service rather than the Indian Army and newly arrived in the country without much knowledge of local affairs, now arrived on the scene. Seeing a large number of civilian refuges ensconced in his unit's barracks, he demanded an explanation from Captain Shamsher Singh on whose orders such an infringement of Army rules and orders had been done. Captain Shamsher Singh simply replied with dignity, "On the orders of Guru Gobind Singh."

When the significance of the Captain's remarks and that of the Guru as a saviour of humanity were explained to the Colonel, impressed, he just turned around and walked away saying, Carry on." The non-Muslims sheltered by the Signalmen all made it to India safely. While the Indian troops from Quetta and the rest of the division had a number of hair-raising adventures on the way home to their newly independent motherland, they had the immense satisfaction of having saved a number of lives.

Commemorative dates in August
Aug 26: Chittor Day (9 Grenadiers (Mewar))
Aug 27: Haji Pir Day (1 Para (Special Forces))
Aug 28: Bedori Day (19 Punjab)
Aug 29: Haji Pir Day (19 Punjab)
Chhamb-Jaurian Day (20 Lancers)
Kalidhar Day (3 Mahar)

IAF raising days in August
Aug 1: 111 Helicopter Unit (Snow Tigers)
112 Helicopter Unit (Thoroughbreds)
142 SSS Flight (Flying Amphibians)
Aug 2: 131 FAC Flight (Airborne Pointers)
Aug 10: 35 Squadron (Rapiers)
110 Helicopter Unit (Vanguards)
Aug 15: 14 Squadron (Bulls)
Aug 20: 15 Squadron (Flying Lances)
Aug 26: 109 Helicopter Unit (Knights)

First Published: Aug 21, 2012 12:43 IST